If you’re flying with Alaska Airlines from mid-January, don’t plan on getting on board with your support pig or miniature horse.
The airline, which acted in the wake of new federal guidelines aimed at curbing a number of at times exotic animals that passengers had brought on airliners as emotional support animals, simply announced on Tuesday what it would allow: only qualified assistance dogs the up lie on the floor or be held in your lap.
Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines, who said it was the first major airline to publicly change its animal policy in light of updated federal guidelines, said the airline’s decision was a positive move.
“This change in the law is welcome news as it will help us reduce disruption on board while accommodating our guests traveling with qualified service animals,” Prentice said in a statement.
The airline said that as of Jan. 11, service dogs will only be allowed who have been trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
A December 2 ruling by the US Department of Transportation that amended the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act gives airlines the power to classify animals as pets rather than service animals with emotional support. According to the verdict, only dogs that meet certain training criteria may be admitted as service animals for people with physical, sensory, psychiatric, mental or other mental disabilities.
The new regulation has been criticized by disability rights advocates who said the restrictions would weaken protection for people with disabilities by restricting the definition of a service animal. According to formal guidelines from the Ministry of Transport from 2019, common service animals include dogs, cats and miniature horses.
“Although it is no secret that we are still a long way from having a truly accessible transport system in this country, the DOT rule will only serve to exacerbate existing inequalities for people with disabilities who travel by air, and instead almost exclusively for them The airline’s interests to be considered industry, “Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, said in a statement earlier this month.
Despite criticism, airlines and others in the air travel industry, such as lobby group Airlines for America, have hailed the recent changes and stated that they will do more to reduce animal misbehavior on flights and prevent individuals from setting rules regarding the service abuse animals.
In the past, passengers have attempted to travel with a wide variety of animals, from everyday to downright unusual animals such as pigs, monkeys, and birds. (One unsuccessful attempt even included a peacock.)
The Disabled Americans Act defines dogs and miniature horses as service animals “that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Under the law, dogs that only provide emotional support are not designated as service animals.
Alaska Airlines’ revised policy allows for a maximum of two service dogs per guest and includes psychiatric service dogs. Passengers must also submit a form developed by the Ministry of Transport confirming that a dog is a service animal and has received appropriate training and vaccination.